Springfield reflects on 3-year anniversary of tornado - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Springfield reflects on 3-year anniversary of tornado

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June 1, 2011, at 4:38 p.m.

That was the time a tornado crossed the Connecticut River and entered Downtown Springfield.

While the city works to look forward, there are still many signs that will not let people forget.

"I'm Springfield born, bred and proud," said Mayor Domenic Sarno. "You could not recognize the area."

Sarno spoke with CBS 3, reflecting on the moments following the EF 3 tornado that ripped through his city three years ago Sunday.

While three lives were lost in neighboring towns, Sarno said he was thankful that lives were spared in his city.

"The first 72 hours, we were in search and rescue and triage," Sarno stated. "I would keep saying, 'What's the count, what's the count?' They'd say 'Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor, nobody yet, thank God.'"

In the days and weeks to come, the rebuilding of Springfield began, but it has been a slow process.

"It's three years," said Wayne Phaneuf, the executive editor of The Republican. "I think that most people think that in three years, things are going to be better."

Phaneuf recently took a helicopter tour that mirrored one taken days after the tornado.

He said there are still a fair share of blue tarps, but he can also see progress.

"When you're heading east, you can see the boarded up Brooking school, and you can see the construction of the new Brooking school in the same frame," said Phaneuf.

Sarno said the city will likely receive $90 million to $100 million in federal and state money alone to help rebuild the city.

That is something not lost on Phaneuf.

"It was a terrible thing, but on the other hand, hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction has taken place since then," said Phaneuf.

The mayor believes the disaster showed how resilient the people of Springfield truly are.

"There's been about over 80 natural disasters in the United States of America," said Sarno.  "Many times, those natural disasters turn into manmade disasters because they're not managed properly. But we really operated like a fine-tuned engine."

While there was one tornado that stretched 39 miles that day and caused much of the damage from Westfield to Charlton, there were actually two more tornados that touched down in Western Massachusetts, one in the area of Wilbraham and the other in the area of Brimfield.

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